Valeria Belloro Belloro من عند Miroli, Gujarat, الهند
So, a first novel, published by a major Brit house, marketed as horror and freely available in supermarkets and coming complete with great blurbs and a very favourable comparison to Stephen King and “The Shining”. Does it live up to any of that? No, I don’t think so. The story is fairly straightforward, a marriage is in crisis and in an effort to reinstate the status quo, the protagonists move to the Mid-West. Except Conrad, a failed everything whose father has also just died, isn’t particularly likeable and his opinion of his wife Joanna changes from chapter to chapter, depending on how it suits the story - she’s a slut (with Conrad’s ex-best friend), domineering, submissive, lying, open, happy, sad - whatever you want. We also meet two other women - Holly, the ex from way back and Nadia, the pregnant teen from next door. The Holly situation is meant to mean something big, but it just reads like the male fantasy of a teenaged girlfriend. Nadia veers in her character, going along agreeably with Conrad because he offers her money, without his really explaining what it is that he wants of her. As it is, the books biggest problem appears to be a lack of an editor, it’s at least a third too long, maybe a half. I was lucky enough to read three quarters of it during a trip to France, so I had to keep going but at times it was very tedious - in the middle, I went through 100 pages and the only thing that happened in all of that was Nadia’s boyfriend getting killed. The ending feels tacked on and rushed and, even though we have mention of ‘the doctor’ at the start, we don’t actually ‘see’ the character until page 370 of a 400 page book. I kid you not. It also fails as a horror novel - the gore, when it comes, is either done so that you don’t really catch it or it’s focussed on to such a level that it becomes desensitising (such as with Nadia). Worse, this had the potential to be really scary - an old house, long dead women, babies crying in the night - they’re all there but none of them are utilised well and all of the times they appear are so clearly signalled, you know they’re coming half a dozen pages before., And don’t get me started on the stupid stick-doll or the author’s insistence on ‘tricking’ the reader several times, by attempting to confuse the clicking of the walking doll with the clicking of Conrad’s dogs claws on the wooden floors. I don’t know what Michael Marshall Smith read, but it can’t have been this, nor what the person read who compared it to “The Shining” - this is an overlong, bland, not badly written but not well edited novel that doesn’t appear - to me - to do anything it promises on the cover. Give it a miss.